PEN Bangladesh Centre condemns violent threats and baseless accusation against Sultana Kamal
12 June 2017
Sultana Kamal, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist of Bangladesh, has recently received threats from the religious group called Hefazat-e-Islam. In light of the views she shared on a television talk show regarding the removal of the statue of Lady Justice from Bangladesh’s Supreme Court premises, Hefazat-e-Islam demanded that Sultana Kamal be arrested or exiled. More importantly, they made threats of physical harm.
As an organisation that firmly believes in the tenets of freedom of speech and expression, we at PEN Bangladesh Centre are deeply troubled by this vehement, unabashed public promise of violence against an important member of the Bangladeshi community.
The Constitution of Bangladesh promises to accommodate people of all creed, caste, and religion. This basic element of the framework of our nation allows not only the coexistence of people of varied beliefs, but also mutual respect for each other’s views.
We are a country whose very identity is shaped by its historic fight for linguistic, cultural, and ideological liberty; a country known they world over for establishing the International Mother Language Day. As a people whose very social fabric is woven by the strength of language, we cannot and should not stand by the silencing of that language. We cannot condone the thoughts, ideas and beliefs of our people to be stripped of dignity, to be threatened with violence.
It is a matter of deep concern that a group of people are able to issue a public statement that describes in such cruel detail the violence that a prominent public figure will be subjected to if she steps outside of her house.
PEN Bangladesh Centre condemns this threat against such a vital social and cultural figure.
We are concerned that the common people, not all of whom are able to afford protection, are exposed to greater danger each day that such promises of violence are tolerated on a public platform.
PEN Bangladesh Centre demands the safety not only of Sultana Kamal, but of each and every member of our community who hold the right to their own beliefs, whose voices should not be silenced for fear of being misconstrued, and who should not have to fear for their lives for speaking their minds.